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Most Penn students would probably have trouble remembering a time before political campaigns asked for monetary donations in addition to support. Many, however, prefer to back their candidates in other ways.

College freshman, current candidate for Class of 2013 President and Penn Democrats Treasurer Jake Shuster made a few small donations to President Barack Obama’s campaign during the 2008 presidential election, but has not donated elsewhere since coming to Penn.

He said he decided to donate in 2008 because he was excited by how Obama was getting young voters involved. He added that Obama did a good job of reaching out to all supporters and making even the smallest donations seem important.

Since coming to Penn, however, Shuster said he is less inclined to donate to campaigns because of the many other volunteer opportunities the campus affords him.

In the upcoming U.S. Senate election, he said he will support a candidate by canvassing door to door and registering voters, rather than making monetary donations.

College freshman and Graham White, campus coordinator for U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter’s campaign, said he will take a similar approach in supporting campaigns in 2010. Graham also made donations to the Obama campaign in 2008, as well as a small donation to U.S. Sen. John Kerry when he ran for president in 2004.

He said now that he is at Penn, he probably won’t donate, for the same reason as many college students.

“Money is a little tight,” he said. “If I want to help a campaign, I’ll do so by volunteering and getting out the vote.”

College Republicans Treasurer and Engineering sophomore Peter Terpeluk gave a similar reason for not donating to candidates he supports, though he added that his parents have likely made some small donations in his name in the past.

Still, Terpeluk acknowledged the effectiveness of the campaign strategy. “Once you give money you feel more dependent upon the results,” he said.

However, College junior and political independent Grant Dubler, who is a candidate for Undergraduate Assembly president, has stayed active in seven or eight campaigns through small donations. Most of the campaigns he has donated to, particularly in the last two years, have been for Democrats. But he said he donated to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign during the 2008 election cycle.

He said for him it is a matter of supporting those candidates who have personally engaged him and who share his political views.

Randall Miller, a St. Joseph’s University history professor and political analyst, said keeping supporters engaged is an important function of asking people for contributions, no matter how small.

He cited Obama’s asking for contributions as a device to maintain contact with people and mobilize them for his campaigns. Though the extent to which small donations are used varies from candidate to candidate, Miller said the strategy has shown its effectiveness.

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